‘Chirutha’, written by Shruthi Sharanyam, composed and sung by Sudeep Palanad, fords time and narratives

The Malayalam song brings in a new aspect to the myth of the Yakshi, a vengeful female spirit, in Kerala

Sudeep Palanad’s sonorous voice bridges time as the melodic ‘Chirutha’, an ode to the feminine, fuses folklore, fact and fiction.

Written by lyricist-filmmaker Shruthi Sharanyam, the verse delves into the Yakshi concept of Kerala, of a bloodthirsty spirit who seeks revenge against those who wronged her, even after her death. The lyricist has deftly woven it along with the rebellion against archaic customs that took place in 1956 at Manimalarkavu temple, near Velur in Thrissur, when women participated in a temple procession. They covered their torso to protest against the custom that prevented women belonging to certain castes from wearing an upper garment.

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“Chirutha is also a glimpse into the nature of perception and self. A boy’s dream helps him understand the yin and the yang in every person. He wakes up to realise that Chirutha is his second self or another version of himself in the female form,” says Shruthi.

The song was born during the pandemic-induced lockdown. But that could not stop them from their artistic pursuits. Sudeep says he was working on compositions all through the lockdown. He says: “Every day, I would score a couple of tunes and save it. One day, I sent a piece of music to Shruthi who was completely bowled over by it. She told me she wanted to write a piece for the music and that is how ‘Chirutha’ was created.”

 

Seeking justice

Shruthi had been toying with the idea of working on the concept of the Yakshi for some time. She was convinced that these must have been women who had raised their voice against patriarchal norms or sought justice for some wrong done to them.

“The easiest way to discredit them would have been to label them as Yakshi and ostracise or kill them. But the fear of unjustly killing a woman would have played in the minds of the men and given shape to the stories of Yakshi,” says Shruthi.

The music with hints of Abheri and Punnagavarali ragas resonated in her. She requested Sudeep, actor Ramya Suvi and her film crew to meet at her house. They discussed the plan and theme. The lyrics and script for the visuals were written in one night.

“Lyrics do not come easily to me, but this just flowed seamlessly on paper,” she muses. Avoiding Sanskritised words and usage, Shruthi’s layered verses merge the story of the Yakshi and the incident of 1956.

A still from the music video ‘Chirutha’

“There is proof that a woman called Chirutha took part in the protest. I made up the rest of the narrative about her death and added a new thread of her as a Yakshi, to pay tribute to the women who walked ahead of us and lived life on their own terms, ” says Shruthi.

Sombre images of a child doing the last rites give way to images of Chirutha and the youngster interacting with each other before seguing into the protest in 1956.

Visuals by Fahad Fatli enhance the lyrics and the music. Ramya appears as Chirutha, a free spirit, whose maternal instincts are awakened by a young boy, enacted by Ramya’s son Bodhi S.

Last year, Shruthi and vocalist Sooraj Santhosh had reworked the lyrics of the popular folk song ‘Aaalayal thara venam’. With a few changes, they tried to recast certain archaic images in the song to make it in tune with the times we live in.

 

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